So you might be out with Koreans and you’ve survived the drinking of soju but then everyone starts talking about going to noraebang. Oh no… that’s karaoke! What if they expect you to sing?
Well, yes, they will expect you to sing, but the good news is that this type of karaoke isn’t exactly what we think of in Western culture. It’s not like you will be made to awkwardly stand in front of a restaurant full of people and be expected to sing well.
A Korean karaoke place is divided up into rooms. You’ll pay for however many hours you want at the front, pick out some drinks and snacks and then head to your own private room. No singing in front of strangers, it will be just you and your friends in a comfy room.
It is likely you will be expected to sing though. Even if you protest that you are a terrible singer or that you’d rather poke your own eyes out rather than sing in front of people, it’s not going to get you out of it. They won’t stop insisting. But it’s not in order to embarrass you, they genuinely expect you to enjoy it. So instead of insisting no it’s better to just suck it up and maybe you’ll have some fun.
I am a terrible singer but I’ve worked out some tactics for handling noraebang and I really enjoy it now.
It is likely that you are with people who don’t speak English as a first language. If you are a native English speaker you have an advantage. Firstly you can legitimately say that you can’t sing a Korean song because it’s too difficult and your Korean skills aren’t good enough. That’s okay, but many Korean pop songs have some English. What you can do is pair up with someone who sings all the Korean and you just sing the English parts. So technically afterwards you’ve done one song already even though you haven’t done much singing.
We often do CNBLUE’s ‘Love’ with my husband doing the Korean and me doing the English parts… (and the nonsensical words). Big Bang’s Fantastic Baby is also great for this. Most people can handle singing “Dance dance dance dance dance dance” and “Wow fantastic baby.”
Okay so what do you do if they insist on you doing an English song? This is no time to show off your amazing taste in music. No one wants to hear you doing some boring obscure song so you can show how cool and indie you are. Korean karaoke places in both Western countries and Korea will usually have quite a selection of English language songs so think about what might be easy to do. If you are an amazing singer you can do what you want, this advice is more for bad or extremely nervous singers.
Firstly, The Beatles are your friends! And there will be many Beatles songs. Early Beatles songs are often a good choice. I usually do “Can’t buy me love” and both of us do “Twist and Shout” together because we can just yell it. “Come together” is also an excellent choice because you hardly need to sing you can just ‘sing talk’.
Another song we’ve discovered is good to do is One Direction’s “What makes you beautiful” because the verses are really easy and you can just scream the chorus. So try to think about what is an easy pop song to do. Just stay way from Adele songs!
Koreans usually don’t do a whole song. They’ll do the first verse and chorus and then skip to the next song so they can fit more songs into the allocated time. So as soon as you’ve had enough you can say you are finished and they’ll skip to the next song and you are off the hook.
You will soon realise that Koreans are amazing are karaoke. And they should be, they do it all the time! I still get surprised at the way my husband can belt out a song. Although they might be great at it, they are unlikely to say anything bad even if you are a terrible singer so just try to relax and have fun. It’s not just sitting in a room and watching others sings: you can drink and eat and dance. It’s fun. That’s why it’s something they love doing.
If you have experienced noraebang what are your tips? What are your favourite songs to sing?